Andrew Davies: Jane Austen’s Sanditon is ‘a bit like Love Island’

Will the heroine of Austen's unfinished novel leave the underdog hero in the friend-zone?

Leo Suter plays Young Stringer in Sanditon

Betrayal, intrigue, friend-zoning… ITV’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s final and unfinished book bears more than a little similarity to another ITV series, according to screenwriter Andrew Davies.

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Davies, a master adaptor for screen and a self-confessed Love Island addict, has drawn comparisons between the ITV2 reality series and his new eight-parter, Sanditon, which sees its heroine courted by various suitors.

The series follows Charlotte (Curfew’s Rose Williams), a young woman from a respectable country family who is invited to stay at Sanditon, an English seaside resort which aspires to be fashionable.

While in Sandition, she makes various new acquaintances, including the unpredictable Sidney Parker (Downton Abbey’s Theo James), Sir Edward Denham (Jack Fox) and new character and “underdog” Young Stringer (Leo Suter), a lower-class member of society who falls desperately in love with Charlotte but must go up against the charismatic Sidney…

Theo James, ITV
Theo James in Sanditon

With multiple potential suitors for our heroine, did Davies stick to how he imagined Austen’s original story would have panned out?

“I think she’d obviously been setting up Charlotte and Sidney for some kind of [romantic narrative] yeah,” Davies told press following an episode one screening. “And Sir Edward as well, who presents himself as a sexy man but not a very reliable one, and then we thought, ‘well it’s not enough, let’s have a decent chap who’s got lots of things in common with Charlotte, somebody she instantly likes because they never quarrel.'”

“It’s a bit like Love Island, really,” Davies added. “I mean is she just friend-zoning him? Or is there a fanny flutter? I confess I am a fan of Love Island.”

Speaking at the same press conference, Suter explained that his character Young Stringer is a “bit of an underdog”.

“I hope that we as an audience root for him because he’s a good man and he’s got a good heart,” he added, “but the question is: will Charlotte pick him?”

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Sanditon will air in eight parts on ITV in autumn 2019